Baby P council chief steps down

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of the local authority criticised for failings in the Baby P tragedy is standing down, she announced today.

Ita O'Donovan will retire from her position at the top of Haringey Council in north London in February.

She acknowledged that there was still much to be done to improve child protection services in the borough but insisted the local authority was otherwise "in good shape".

Baby P - who can now be named as Peter Connolly - was just 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, her lover and their lodger.

He had suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.

A series of reviews identified missed opportunities when officials could have saved the little boy's life if they had acted properly on the warning signs in front of them.

In December Haringey's child protection services were condemned as "inadequate" in a damning report commissioned by the Government.

In response the council's leader and cabinet member for children and young people resigned, and its children's services director, Sharon Shoesmith, was sacked.

After returning to Haringey to check whether things had improved, inspectors warned in July that the council was still not protecting all vulnerable children from abuse.

Dr O'Donovan, who has been Haringey's chief executive since March 2006, reached retirement age in May but agreed to stay on to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.

She said: "Following the death of Baby Peter and the emergence of serious failings in our children's service, it was agreed with the leader that I should stay with the council longer than May to provide stability and help put things right.

"We have taken decisive action over the last eight months and inspectors have recognised that progress has been made but much more needs to be done."

She added: "The most recent assessment of our overall performance by the Government shows that, with the exception of our children's safeguarding service, the council is in good shape and we are still achieving a great deal."